London. Sunday 22 June
Visit the -------- Bookshop. Nothing has changed. The passageways are still narrow. You still have to squeeze past the customers. The surly worker is still there, unpleasant as ever.
I pull a yellowed paperback off the sagging shelf. The book separates from its companions with a crack. It feels thin between my fingers, like time has dried it out.
‘Trainspotting’. I supress a shiver of excitment. Books always exceed the film.
But the Scot patois is like wading through treacle. The book is plastered with deafening accolades: ‘Brilliant’ ‘Should sell more copies than the Bible’. What were they thinking?
Before long, I feel a presence close by. Very close by. The old man is standing right next to me, piercing my private bubble. Then the smell hits me, so strong that you could lick it off the air. Sweat, urine, faeces -- the smell of old decay. How long since he took a bath? Maybe one year, maybe two?
I scan his filthy socks, his stained trousers, his crusty shirt, browned at the collar. The stem of his pale neck rises like a mushroom -- the carnivorous mushrooms that grow in the rainforests, the ones which lure flies with the smell of rotting flesh, then digest them.
I remember the smell on safari in Africa, coming off an old elephant kill. It is the smell of flesh long dead, once the scavengers abandon the carcass for the ants. Then he moves slightly, throwing off waves of himself. I feel offended, even violated.
Noses lift from books. Hands clap to mouths. People file out like lemmings.
‘The man has a plan’ I thought. 'Now he has all the room he needs.'
I think to tell the surly worker. But how would I put it?
I imagine myself searching for the right words ‘That man. He...He...Uuh...Stinks’.
The truth is, there's no law against stink. Even if you stink like an dead elephant.
How would he answer me? His replies take shape in my mind:
‘I’ll dispatch him at once sir.'
'That's my brother you're talking about'
There is nothing I can do. I move to ‘Biography’ and blow my trumpet as hard as I can, trying to rid my nostrils of him.
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